Our mission, as the area’s premier no-kill shelter, is to engage the hearts, hands, and minds of the community to help animals. Our vision is a community where all animals are cared for and loved. We achieve our mission by providing compassionate care to our shelter pets, finding them permanent homes, and promoting responsible pet ownership in our community.
    During May's Be Kind to Animals Month we honor students, teachers, community members, businesses, and organizations that share this mission and put kindness into action.

    2023 Nominations Are Open!

    Nominations are now open for HSSC's Be Kind to Animals Awareness Series. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit a nomination.

    Rilee Beisler HUMANE-I-TARIAN Award

    The Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian Award is inspired by the heroic actions of 11-year-old Rilee. On May 5, 2021, she tragically lost her life attempting to rescue her two puppies, Dobby and Luna. 

    HSSC's mission is to engage the hearts, hands, and minds of the community to help animals. Rilee Beisler's huge heart for animals is an inspiration and a testament to the strength of the human-animal bond. May we remember and honor the life of this young lady and celebrate other animal-loving young people.

    Children ages 6-17 who live in Sarasota County and exemplify compassion, love, and respect for animals are eligible to be nominated for this award. 

    Humane Education Award

    The Humane Society of Sarasota County’s Humane Education Program teaches people of all ages to respect the animals that share our world, both in our homes and in our communities. Humane education fosters compassion, responsibility, and kindness—for animals and people alike. Fundamentally, the goal of humane education is to make the world a better place for all living creatures.

    The focus on global citizenship makes humane education compatible with other educational theories, including service-learning, character building, and democratic education, all of which promote personal and global responsibility. By demonstrating that actions have consequences, the humane education curriculum builds empathy and higher-order thinking skills.

    This award is open to a Sarasota County teacher or educational professional who encourages compassionate care for animals and promotes responsible pet ownership in our community.

    Helping Heroes Public Service Award

    Whether a member of the community or an animal care specialist, sometimes quick thinking or compassionate, heroic actions make the difference in the life of a dog or cat and HSSC wants to honor these actions. Nominate an organization or individual that has demonstrated heroic measures or stewardship to save the life of an animal(s).

    Humane in Action Award

    Annual partners, event sponsors, and program sponsors will help the Humane Society of Sarasota County save the lives of more than 3,000 cats and dogs this year and enrich human lives along the way. Did you know that HSSC receives no federal funding, nor are we part of any national humane organization? It’s true. We rely solely on contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations. Nominate an HSSC partner business or organization that puts their love into action through advocacy, resources, treasure, or talent to save animals in Sarasota County and beyond.

    HSSC Pet Advocate Award

    At the Humane Society of Sarasota County, the staff, fosters, and volunteers have the right to advocate for an animal in our care. From writing website bios and spending one on one time to advocating for the training and medical care of an animal, HSSC advocates make a difference in the lives of our shelter pets every single day. This honor recognizes individual achievement of an individual who demonstrated outstanding service in the life of an animal in HSSC's care. Open to partner organizations, businesses, staff, and volunteers.

    PAWS Recognition Awards

    The Humane Society of Sarasota County honors supporters at their annual Paws fundraiser. The awards are determined by HSSC leadership.

    HSSC Founder's Award

    In the fall of 1951, Donald Evans lost his dog. Eventually, the dog catcher caught the dog, but no one contacted Mr. Evans. His beloved dog was euthanized. Mr. Evans was so upset that he vowed to start a Humane Society to prevent this from happening to others. On the night of January 15, 1952, 70 people met at the Sunshine Kitchen and formed the new society. The Humane Society of Sarasota County, Inc., was incorporated on February 8, 1952.

    The Articles of Incorporation read, “The purposes of this corporation are: promoting the welfare of all animals in Sarasota County, Florida; caring for and finding homes for animals; encouraging kindness toward animals and assisting in the enforcement of all laws and ordinances for the protection of animals; operating an animal shelter for animals; and pursuing other humane objectives.”

    In 2023, the award was presented to Kimberly Tocci during Be Kind to Animals Month Award Series presentations. Beginning in 2024, the HSSC board president and executive director award the Founder's Award to an individual who promotes animal welfare in Sarasota County, cares for and finds homes for animals, encourages kindness, and pursues humane objectives. The award presentation is part of their annual Paws fundraising event. 

    The 2024 Founders Award was presented to Caryn Wilbraham on April 5, 2024 at HSSC's Paws in Paris event.

    Caryn has served on our board of directors since 2018 and is currently serving on our executive committe as our secretary.
    As a board member, she actively advocates for HSSC and our mission. But our staff know Caryn in a different way. To us, she is our "Bottle Baby Kitten Foster Extraordinaire."

    All year round, Caryn opens her heart and home to the tiniest, most vulnerable lives that arrive at HSSC—motherless, days-old kittens. Until they are four weeks old, baby kittens are completely helpless and can’t survive without 24-hour care from a dedicated foster “mom” or “dad," like Caryn and her wonderfully supportive husband, Ian. Last kitten season, HSSC provided lifesaving care to 250 unweaned kittens, and 20 of those were lucky enough to land in Caryn’s doting lap.

    Winners & Honorees

    HSSC is proud to honor the Be Kind to Animals Award Series & Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian Award finalists. The 2023 honorees were recognized at a reception on Sunday, June 25,2023 at HSSC. 
    Finalists and winners were recognized in the following categories:
    Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian (ages 6-17)
    Honorees: Ashlyn Tarro, Lyla McKenney, Ellis Howell, Sofia Bruns
    Winners: Abby Williams, Van Vangor
    Humane Education (teacher or educator)
    Honorees: Katie Scaz, Samantha Gentrup
    Winner: Delvecchio Walls
    Founder’s Award (individual)
    Honorees: Kimberly Tocci, Jennifer Hummel, Kristin Little
    Winner: Caroline Resnick
    Helping Heroes Public Service Award (Organization or individuals)
    Honoree: Justin Matthews
    Winner: Nikki Goslin
    HSSC Pet Advocate Award (individual)
    Honorees: Donna Bennett, Jenny Hamner, Natalie Tilton, Hope McCampbell-Wenk
    Winner: Lori Schook
    Humane In Action (business or organization)
    Honorees: Wut’s Up Pup, Bates-Buchanan & Savitsky Law Group
    Winner: Bayside Pet Resort
    (If honorees were unable to attend, we are scheduling additional award presentations with those individuals/businesses.)
    The 2023 Be Kind to Animals Award series was sponsored by HSSC, SouthState Bank and a kind donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Additional prize sponsors include Sun Outdoors and Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

    2024 Be Kind to Animals Month Award Nomination Form

    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    / / Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Attach Photos
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input

    Rilee Michelle Beisler

    AUGUST 21, 2009 – MAY 5, 2021

    Rilee was a sixth grader at McIntosh Middle School. She tragically lost her life in an attempt to rescue her two 7-month-old puppies, Luna and Dobby, from a fire.



    "In this day and age because of the COVID monster, our attentions have gravitated to smaller more withdrawn personal contacts, but we sometimes forget other things around us, like our animals. They give us joy and inner peace we also take for granted.

    For my generation (many years ago) as a child my dog was one of the most important parts of my life. Rilee was the same way. She lived with us for many years before moving over to her mother's trailer at Sun n Fun. The puppies she cared for were two Pitbull pups her mother’s friend left behind. Rilee started training them to walk on a leash, to sit, and to become “potty trained”. She loved them both and they became an important part of her life. They gave Rilee joy, and she repaid that affection with caring and love. She never gave a second thought to entering a burning building to save them, even if she should have known better. She didn’t understand the dynamics of a confined-but-powerful fire, and it cost her life. Her only thought was to rescue those two pups, and her bravery set terrible circumstances into motion. It’s that bravery and awareness of the value of two simple dogs that we wish to celebrate and remember, annually.

    For kids her age, pets are a sanctuary in today's confused and uncertain times. We sincerely hope to contribute, in Rilee’s memory, a sense of responsibility and caring among kids her age, and others, of course, that will guide them toward their adult years to be passed down for generations to come." 

    —Pete Beisler